Snohomish County PUD Strengthens Trade Ally Program, Captures Low-Cost Savings, with Seinergy
(Written by Denis DuBois of P5 Marketing http://www.p5group.com)
Energy efficiency is important to Snohomish County Public Utility District. Valuing clean air and responsible resource use are part of the PUD’s mission to ensure a healthy environment for all 332,000 of its customers. The PUD staff takes pride in knowing the communities it serves.
As one of 17 utilities subject to Washington’s Energy Independence Act, better known as I-937, Snohomish PUD is required to pursue all available cost-effective conservation. Thanks to a thriving trade ally network, the PUD’s energy efficiency programs achieved their savings goals in 2014. Residential heating energy efficiency programs achieved savings at a rate of $.37 per kWh in incentive costs.
But the conservation requirements and cost of compliance go up each year, which is driving the PUD to design more innovative strategies for acquiring savings.
PUD’s Goal: To Become Smarter Marketers of Energy Efficiency
“A lot of conservation’s low hanging fruit has already been picked,” says Richard Hazzard, Senior Manager for Customer Strategy and Analytics for Snohomish County PUD. “Acquiring resources is getting more complicated, and our tactics need to be more surgical.”
The PUD’s Energy Services department strategy is to become a smarter marketing organization by understanding more about its territory and trade allies. To that end, it has established a Customer Analytics department to gather and learn from data. Richard oversees that department.
“Customer Analytics is being built to understand our real estate portfolio and its occupants in much better detail than we now have,” Richard explains. The more data the department gets, the deeper the PUD’s understanding of its customers will be.
1 Million kWh of Hidden Savings Captured at Half the Cost
A new source of energy savings and customer data for the utility is Seinergy. Seinergydelivers energy savings the utility otherwise would not know about. The savings are captured from residential heating energy retrofits performed by contractors who did not utilize incentives. The Washington Department of Commerce ruled that Seinergy’s savings qualify under I-937 all the same.
“Previously, the PUD only captured measures that we do ourselves through our programs,” says Michael Coe, Principal Utility Analyst in Customer Strategy and Analytics – Planning and Evaluation, “but Seinergy delivers valuable information on projects that are being done in our territory that we aren’t aware of, that didn’t go through our programs.”
In its first two years of using Seinergy, Snohomish PUD had acquired one million kWh of new savings at a rate of $.16 to $.20 per kWh.
Delivering energy savings at less than half the cost is only one way Snohomish PUD benefits from its relationship with Seinergy.
Home Data Makes PUD’s Efficiency Targets Easier to Reach
Along with energy savings that contribute to I-937 targets, Seinergy delivers valuable information about hundreds of homes.
“We use that data to give us insight when we do our Conservation Potential Assessment,” Michael says. “If we know a certain number of homes added attic insulation, we can remove that out of our potential. There’s less available, so we can ratchet down our I-937 targets.”
By reducing the total available efficiency, or potential, the PUD avoids overestimating budgets for years into the future.
The data also helps Snohomish PUD to be a smarter marketing organization by surgically targeting its offers to the customers who are most likely to act on them.
“Typically we would have sent out a bill stuffer for a heat pump rebate to every customer,” Richard explains. “But with Seinergy’s data we can refine campaigns and send them to those homes we know don’t already have them.”
PUD Strengthens Trade Alliances
Snohomish PUD’s trade ally engagement strategy is critical to achieving its yearly savings goals. Data from Seinergy is an important resource for increasing contractor participation and making that strategy even more effective.
“Seinergy is interacting with trade allies at a level that we can’t,” Richard says, noting that contractors will sometimes share information with Seinergy that they won’t readily share with the PUD. “Seinergy is also dealing with some contractors that are intentionally not doing business with us, and the data from Seinergy will help us to understand why.”
1 Million kWh Is Just the Beginning
Snohomish County PUD is learning more about its customers, marketing smarter, and strengthening its trade ally program every day, with the help of Seinergy.
“I think the region should be paying attention to the work Seinergy is doing and supporting it,” Richard says. “Regionally we need this kind of help to map everything that’s going on, not just the activity that’s touched by our incentive dollars.